Interest among evangelicals in the Protestant Reformation has been on the rise for several years. With the recent quatercentenary commemoration of the Reformation, interest continues to blaze hotter than ever.
Gavin Ortlund, himself a student of the Reformation, argues in his recent book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future that a modified approach is in order. The author observes that some evangelicals are growing restless. They yearn to understand what lies at the heart of their faith. And they lack a theological grounded that both informs and inspires.
Ortlund’s book, in two parts. Part one sets forth the case for theological retrieval. Is it even possible for evangelicals to retrieve patristic and medieval theology? The author interacts with the various view of Warfield, Calvin, and Luther and argues that it is indeed possible to draw from the rich theological past. Such a retrieval, according to the author, serves like a map that serves the weary pilgrim. Various benefits of theological retrieval are proposed, along with some of the pitfalls that may accompany such a pursuit.
Part two includes several case studies that reveal the various strengths of pursuing the theological retrieval that the author is proposing. The most interesting case study involves a detailed look at substitution as both satisfaction and recapitulation through the lenses of Athanasius, Irenaeus, and Anslem.
I found Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals both illuminating and informing. Ortlund’s insight and passion for church history is greatly appreciated and need in our myopic age. Too often, we are quick to throw the “theological baby” out with the bathwater. As a committed follower of Christ in the Protestant tradition, I also found parts of the book troubling. I understand the intent of the author but fear that some readers will put too much stock in Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox dogma and wind up on the wrong path at the end of the day. Overall, the book is worthy of careful study and consideration.